Written by Mike Whitney; Originally appeared at The Unz Review
“During the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to win the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry…. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” ..The number of inhabitants of Pyongyang killed by bomb splinters, burnt alive and suffocated by smoke is incalculable…” (“Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea“, Vox World)
The US-North Korea Summit in Hanoi has ended in failure just as all previous attempts at peace have ended in failure. This is by design. Washington has refused to incrementally lift the sanctions on the DPRK because sanctions are Washington’s way of prosecuting an economic war against an enemy who, for the last six and a half decades, has been the target of US hostility. In case you hadn’t noticed, US policy towards North Korea is regime change, the same as it is towards Iran, Cuba, Russia, Venezuela and any other country that doesn’t accept Washington’s moral superiority and divine right to rule the world. Economic strangulation (sanctions) is just one way that Washington cracks down on the dissidents and imposes its will with an iron fist. But don’t kid yourself, this isn’t about nuclear weapons, in fact, the Trump administration hasn’t even bothered to assemble a team of weapons inspectors to investigate probable nuclear sites. Why? Because it isn’t about nuclear weapons, it’s about regime change, it’s about inflicting maximum pain and suffering on the Korean people so they take up arms against the government and violently depose Kim and his cabinet. That’s the goal. That’s always been the goal. The blocking of heating oil, essential medicines and vital food supplies are all being used to promote social unrest, fratricidal warfare, and political anarchy. Sound familiar? It should, Washington has it down to an art.
Kim Jong Un attended the summit in Hanoi hoping that Trump could be persuaded to keep up his end of the bargain. He hoped that Trump would overrule the warmongering political class and honor the agreement he made in Singapore in June, 2018. Here’s a summary what took place at the first Summit:
“In June Kim Jong-un met U.S. President Trump in Singapore. A “freeze for freeze” – the stop of nuclear and missile testing in exchange for a stop of military maneuvers – was agreed upon. A Joint Statement was signed with a list of future tasks in similar chronological order as in the Panmunjeom Declaration (numbering added):
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to
1. the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and
2. the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed
3. to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un [3b] reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
This is the basic outline of the deal between Trump and Kim. Now whatever readers may think of Kim Jong-un, he’s not a fool. He did not agree to terminate all nuclear and missile testing, and decommission his nuclear arsenal for nothing. A deal was made to normalize relations and create a “robust peace regime” on the peninsula followed by a phased decommissioning of nuclear weapons. Trump made this deal and, now, he has broken the deal, just as the United States has broken similar deals in the past, like the Agreed Framework under President Bill Clinton. Here’s a bit of background on the AF from a Washington Post editorial by Jimmy Carter (November 24, 2010):
“…in September 2005, an agreement … reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. (The Agreed Framework) Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005…
“This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005…
“North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be ‘on the table’ for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification – a very slow process – was not covered in the 1994 agreements.
“Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the ‘temporary’ cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.” (“North Korea’s consistent message to the U.S.”, President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post)
This is just one of many agreements brushed aside by the foreign policy establishment and their bloodthirsty allies in the White House. There have been others as well, like this recent proposal by Russia that would have dismantled Pyongyang’s primary nuclear enrichment facility and peacefully ended the threat of nuclear weapons development in the north. Here’s a blurb from an article by Melvin Goodman at Counterpunch:
“According to The Washington Post, Russia made a secret proposal to North Korea last fall to advance negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Moscow offered North Korea a nuclear power plant in return for the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Russia would operate the nuclear plant and transfer all byproducts and waste back to Russia so that North Korea could not exploit the plant to build nuclear weapons.
The idea of trading off a nuclear power plant for a dismantling of nuclear weaponry is not a new one. President Bill Clinton negotiated an arms control agreement with North Korea in 1994, promising Pyongyang two light-water reactors in return for a nuclear freeze. Construction on the site for the reactors began in the 1990s, but the Pentagon and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission blocked delivery of the reactors. As a result, North Korea eventually walked away from the agreement in the first years of the Bush administration.” (“Russia’s Proposal for North Korean Denuclearization: Will It Survive John Bolton?”, Counterpunch)
Now if nuclear weapons were Washington’s main concern, then they had plenty of opportunities to deal with them. But the nukes were not the top priority, were they? The top priority was crushing the regime by any means possible and replacing it with a compliant stooge who would do Washington’s bidding. That’s the real objective. Here’s more from Thursday’s New York Times:
“Mr. Kim had offered to dismantle the North’s most important nuclear facility (Yongbyon) if the United States lifted the harsh sanctions imposed on his nation…“It was about the sanctions,” Mr. Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”…
But in a late-night news conference, North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, contradicted Mr. Trump’s account, saying the North had asked only for some sanctions to be lifted — those that affect ordinary people — in exchange for “permanently and completely” dismantling the main facility in the presence of American experts…(“Trump’s Talks With Kim Jong-un Collapse, and Both Sides Point Fingers”, New York Times)
So it looks like Trump lied to the media about Kim’s demands.(which is par for the course) But, keep in mind, Kim did not ask for anything material from thee US, just an easing of some of the sanctions to reciprocate for the many steps he had taken to normalize relations. But Trump refused to make any good faith gesture at all, he simply stuck to the administration’s hardline approach that stipulates that sanctions will not be lifted until there is complete, verifiable denuclearisation. No wiggle room at all. Even so, Kim said that he would not resume his nuclear and ballistic missile testing and that he would participate in any future negotiations. In other words, he was slapped down by Trump, but remained stoically cooperative. Good for him.
But, why? Why would Kim continue down the path of generosity, cooperation and denuclearisation when the Trump team refused to give anything in return?
The answer to this question needs to be thoroughly analyzed so we can see what’s really going on below the radar.
Ostensibly, the Hanoi Summit looks like high-level talks between the US and North Korea, but there’s more here than meets the eye. In truth, Kim is playing to audiences in Seoul, Moscow and Beijing. In other words, his efforts at peacemaking and denuclearization have more to do with critical trading partners and allies, then they do with Donald Trump. Here’s an excerpt that helps to explain:
“Trade with China represents 57% of North Korea’s imports and 42% of its exports. …
In February 2017, China restricted all coal imports from North Korea until 2018. This is considered to be extremely harmful to the North Korean economy, as coal was the top export of the nation, and China was their top trading partner…
On 28 September 2017… China ordered all North Korean companies operating in China to cease operations within 120 days. By January 2018 customs statistics showed that trade between the two countries had fallen to the lowest level recorded.
On 7 May 2013, Bank of China, China’s biggest foreign exchange bank and other Chinese banks closed the account of North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank.
On 21 February 2016 China quietly ended financial support of North Korea without any media publicity. It is reported to be due to the fallout of relations between the two governments….”(Wikipedia)
China Sanctions Summary:
- China destroyed the North’s import and export trade, including the North’s primary export, coal.
- China shut down all the DPRK’s companies operating in China. (terminating the recycling of revenues back to the North.)
- China cut off access to foreign banking. (and, thus, foreign investment)
- China stopped providing any financial support for the North.
Get the picture? China is North Korea’s lifeline, which is why Kim is being so cooperative. Naturally, Beijing does not want the smaller states like North Korea to upset the regional balance of power by stockpiling nuclear weapons. That won’t do at all, which is why China agreed to impose sanctions on the North after Kim launched provocative nuclear tests in the fall of 2017. Bottom line: It is China that forced the DPRK to the bargaining table, not Trump. And it is China that has scripted much of Kim’s performance in Hanoi. It goes without saying that any solution to the current US-DPRK confrontation will be mapped out in Beijing too.
So what is the strategy Kim and Beijing have settled on, after all, if Washington refuses to negotiate, compromise or ease sanctions, what can be done?
Quite a bit actually, if Kim continues along the same path he is today, that is, he must continue the denuclearization process even though Trump refuses to reciprocate. He must also continue to work closely with his allies to reduce tensions, build confidence and strengthen popular support for change, collaboration and reunification. If Washington is going to be inflexible, then Kim must build a coalition for support. And, in that regard, he appears to be headed in the right direction. Here is Kim declaring his “firm will” to denuclearize the peninsula:
“We declared at home and abroad that we would neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them, and we have taken various practical measures” toward this end. He said he is “ready to meet the U.S. president again anytime and will make efforts to obtain without fail results which can be welcomed by the international community.”
Kim’s strategy is not complicated: It’s called ‘public relations’ and he is winning the battle bigtime. Check out how Kim’s public approval has skyrocketed in South Korea after the first summit with Trump. This is form Time magazine:
“Friday’s meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un prompted 78 percent of respondents to a Korea Research Center poll published this week to say they trusted the North Korean leader. That’s a far cry from the 10 percent of South Koreans who said they approved of Kim in a Gallup Korea poll conducted just a month-and-a-half ago…One summit has changed the perceptions of an entire nation.”
(“Kim Jong Un Now Has a Nearly 80% Approval Rating… in South Korea”, Time)
In the United States, of course, where the “brutal dictator” meme is reiterated ad nauseam on every news program, Kim’s approval ratings are still quite low. Even so, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, “54% of respondents said that they thought the (first) summit reduced the likelihood of a nuclear war..” So even in the US, Kim has succeeded in appearing less threatening than he was before. That is quite an accomplishment given the way he is demonized by the media.
More importantly, China and Russia, have been increasingly supportive of Kim’s efforts and think the sanctions issue should be revisited at the UN. Here’s a clip from a recent Q and A with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov:
“Pyongyang has announced and abides by a moratorium on nuclear testing and ballistic missile launches. We believe that the Security Council could at least make certain gestures by easing or lifting the sanctions where they impede the implementation of joint South Korean-North Korean projects. At their recent meeting, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chairman of the DPRK State Council Kim Jong-un agreed to restore the railway link between the two countries. Why shouldn’t the Security Council analyze how the sanctions regime could be modified in such a way as to incentivize the railway reunification of the two Koreas?” (Sergei Lavrov, Valdai)
The point is that Kim has settled on a plan that doesn’t involve the US that will eventually lead to the easing of sanctions. His steps towards peaceful interaction with the South accompanied by gradual denuclearisation are moving forward despite Washington’s obstructionism. And despite what brainwashed Americans may think, Kim is modern man who wants to implement dramatic reforms that will open the DPRK’s economy to foreign investment, infrastructure development, high-speed rail, mineral extraction, gas pipelines, Siberian oil, shipbuilding and private market activity. (aka–The Moon-Putin plan) Kim is neither a Marxist revolutionary nor a Communist ideologue. He is a bright, Swiss educated, basketball-loving, Karaoke singing father of three who has decided to set aside his misguided nuclear weapons program and join in a regional development plan that will modernize his country, lift his people out of poverty and draw the splintered peninsula back into one prosperous and peaceful nation. Washington should assist him in his effort.